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October 30, 2006

Spectacularly clueless

In what might just be the most spectacularly clueless article (on technology at any rate) I've ever read, the imaginitative named "click" (surely "click on" would have been better?), self proclaimed "The BBC's flagship technology programme" writes of "Designing a more accessible web".

Quoting "Website designer" Leonie Watson, we learn

"There's a technology called Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) that allows you to control the way a page is displayed, such as the colour of the text and background.

"However, that's quite a new technology, it's only been around a couple of years, and a lot of designers are still very wary of using it. They actually hard code the colours into the web page itself, which means that they can't be overridden by your browser, or OS."

My emphasis (is there an aural style sheet property "choking-on-breakfast"?)

However, all is not lost!

Leonie Watson says: "Flash is a very interesting topic in terms of web accessibility. It's actually capable of being very accessible indeed"

Phew, saved.

Oh, guess what kinds of "web" sites Ms Watson designs?

If this interview was done in 1998, I apologize to the BBC and Ms. Watson. Otherwise...

I guess, when people criticize the dubious veracity of blogs and other citizen journalism, and point out that Wikipedia is not authoritative, we need to keep in mind that even paragons of journalistic excellence like the BCC can be spectacularly and utterly wrong.

October 30, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

"a lot of designers are still very wary of using it" is an entirely accurate statement; the number of standards-aware developers is still a tiny minority.

Posted by: Matthew Pennell | Oct 30, 2006 9:58:29 PM

Matthew,

perhaps because people still (10 years after CSS1 became a w3c recomendation) "experts" say things like "only been around a couple of years".

My research of late last year of 100 major Australian site found only one site not using CSS to some extent, so despite "standards aware developers" being erhaps a tiny minority, the overwhelming majority of professional developers use CSS.

This kind of stuff reinforces the kinds of mths CSS has face for a decade.

john

Posted by: john Allsopp | Oct 30, 2006 10:05:31 PM

My first reaction to that article was to check the date, thinking I'd been sent an old article. My next reaction was a quick flash of rage, followed by a calm breath, then I closed the window. Sometimes I just have to let it go :)

I can't quite believe how massively wrong that article is... While some developers may still resist CSS, it's not because it's an unproven technology. Some people just resist learning new skills, I think in part because for some people it's just a job and who cares?

I know that we surround ourselves with the truly passionate people in the industry, so we can forget that aspect of the problem. Not everyone is so fired up, there are plenty of people who just want to earn the dollars and go home. I can sort of understand it, although personally I just feel fortunate to love what I do :)

I wonder sometimes how you can educate the clients out there. Surely the design industry went through this when desktop publishing software hit personal computers... how did the customers figure out that they still needed to hire good people? ...or do they still muddle through and periodically get ripped off by dodgy studios?

...and now my coffee has run out. D'oh!

Posted by: Ben Buchanan | Oct 31, 2006 10:48:25 AM

I'm with Ben... I went and looked at the source article in question. And checked the date.

John - you should have tried to find the source and linked to it.

But I really get the feeling that Ms Watson is the victim here. Yes she was "pushing her own barrow" for her business. we have all been guilty of that one. However I feel that the BBC journalist is at fault here for completely unprofessional journalism. They took 1 option, and 1 web site and decided that was industry norm. Poor Ms Watson was the selected mouth piece. I can bet what she said is out of context too.

And with Ben's comment - they do still muddle through and periodically get ripped off by dodgy studios.

Posted by: Tuna | Nov 1, 2006 2:00:24 PM

I assume this is the article?
https://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/click_online/6090418.stm

Leonie is a colleague of mine, and we've been producing CSS based sites since 2002. She knows how long it's been around, so I assume she was referring to how long it's been popular as a means of producing sites. As a user, how often do you come across mainstream sites that fully separates style & content?

Btw, the link for Ms Watson's sites is pretty misleading, she's never produced a flash site herself, this would be a better representation:
https://www.nomensa.com/client-portfolio.html

I suspect that the context was how long it has been popular to use, and even now, it isn't that popular in the mainstream.

Of the 99 Australian sites that used CSS, how many used it for layout? Many designers (most?) are still wary, and only use CSS if their usual tools produce it.

Have a watch of the actual program if it's within a week of the showing, it's on the Click home page. Skip to the 11 minute mark. It's great that it's getting mainstream press, they even buy Dan Cederhome's book as an example :)

Posted by: AlastairC | Nov 5, 2006 12:27:04 AM

Fair points. I must admit even I winced when I watched the program. The context wasn't quite as given in the original interview. I was talking about CSS and when I refered to a new technology,
I was talking about it in terms of commercial design, where it is still a relatively new concept. You don't need to look too far at all to find sites designed by commercial companies who still treat CSS like something akin to black magic!
As Alastair pointed out, you've picked up on the one Flash based site I had any active part in developing, some years ago, when Flash and screen reader accessibility were first coming together. Nomensa have worked on Flash projects since, but the majority of our work is firmly based in CSS/XHTML.
So, I got quoted out of context on national television, believe me that's tough enough! Having it blogged after the fact didn't make it any easier. You're right, even the BBC can get it wrong and at least on a blog there is the opportunity to respond and put the record straight. Thank you.
Regards,
Spectacularly clueless :-)

Posted by: Leonie Watson | Nov 5, 2006 11:06:10 PM

BTW, I couldn't post to this blog myself, as your character recognition security measure isn't accessible with my screen reader...

Posted by: Leonie Watson | Nov 5, 2006 11:13:30 PM

Leonie,

I really feel bad now -becuase it comes across like you are th eone I am havign a big go at, but really it was the BBC.

I had meant to add a rider after the post, saying I bet it was taken out of context, but...
Derek Featherstoen and I were actually chatting about it, which prompted me to do somethign along those lines, but just hadn;t got round to it.

My bad.

Ahhh the captcha - its Typepad's default captcha, IU assumed it wuld have at least some basic accessibility features. We had all comments to be approved for a while (we get so much spam otehrwise), then went with this, but I'll go back to everything to be approved.

We still have a long way to go in many areas eh?

Thanks, and apologies again for not making the BBC more clearly the focus of my cricicism,

j

Posted by: John Allsopp | Nov 7, 2006 11:58:58 AM

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John - you should have tried to find the source and linked to it.

But I really get the feeling that Ms Watson is the victim here. Yes she was "pushing her own barrow" for her business. we have all been guilty of that one. However I feel that the BBC journalist is at fault here for completely unprofessional journalism. They took 1 option, and 1 web site and decided that was industry norm. Poor Ms Watson was the selected mouth piece. I can bet what she said is out of context too.

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I can't quite believe how massively wrong that article is... While some developers may still resist CSS, it's not because it's an unproven technology. Some people just resist learning new skills, I think in part because for some people it's just a job and who cares?

I know that we surround ourselves with the truly passionate people in the industry, so we can forget that aspect of the problem. Not everyone is so fired up, there are plenty of people who just want to earn the dollars and go home. I can sort of understand it, although personally I just feel fortunate to love what I do :)

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